Twitter invests $10 million in MIT social media research lab

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Twitter has just invested $10 million in the creation a special lab that’ll be used to analyse the way people use social media.

The team working at the new Laboratory of Social Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will have full access to Twitter’s public stream of tweets in real time, together with the archive of every single message tweeted since the service kicked off over eight years ago. That’s a whole lot of research material to be getting on with.

The five-year project has a variety of aims, including to better understand how particular kinds of messages travel and spread throughout social media platforms, and also to get a more complete picture of the different ways in which people use such services to engage with one another and share information.

At the same time, the team plans to create new collaborative tools and mobile apps “to enable new forms of public communication and social organization,” Alexandra Kahn of MIT’s Media Lab  said in a release this week. Researchers also hope to build new platforms for individuals and institutions “to identify, discuss, and act on pressing societal problems,” Kahn said.

Related: Twitter opens its stats dashboard to all users

Commenting on the launch of the new project, Deb Roy, an associate professor at the Media Lab and Twitter’s chief media scientist, said the lab intends to “experiment in areas of public communication and social organization where humans and machines collaborate on problems that can’t be solved manually or through automation alone.”

Despite putting millions of dollars into the initiative, Twitter won’t have any direct influence on the type of work the lab carries out, though it will be able to utilize the research results once they’re made available.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said his company’s investment will allow it to “seize the opportunity to go deeper into research to understand the role Twitter and other platforms play in the way people communicate, the effect that rapid and fluid communication can have and apply those findings to complex societal issues.”


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